ISCHIA, Italy (VN) — Sky’s young Italian Salvatore Puccio will wear the pink jersey in stage 3 of the Giro d’Italia, but won’t bear the pressure that ordinarily comes with it, as he and his teammates remain committed to race for Bradley Wiggins.
“It was a surprise for him, but what a fantastic honor,” Sky performance manager Rod Ellingworth told VeloNews. “He never thought of anything like this.”
Sky had planned for Dario Cataldo to take the lead if it won the team time trial. He was told to cross the line first, but they had not planned on the 23-year-old Puccio riding so strongly and being with Sky’s finishing five.
Christian Knees, Dan Pate, Xabier Zandio and Kanstantsin Siutsou dropped off over the 17.4km test. Puccio stayed on and lived every Italian boy’s dream.
Puccio only joined the team last year after winning the under-23 Tour of Flanders in 2011. Sky took note and wanted him, giving him the chance to race this year’s classics and his first grand tour.
“It’s fantastic; we are developing riders and progressing them. When he joined he didn’t have any English language or anything,” said Ellingworth.
Added team principal David Brailsford: “We looked at him when he was a youngster. He won the under-23 Tour of Flanders on his own and caught my eye. So I watched him in a couple of other races, signed him on to the team, and he has really developed.
“For an Italian to put on that jersey, and to be so young and new to pro cycling. … He’ll really appreciate this. He will understand what it is all about. I’m very pleased for him.”
Sky took the yellow jersey one week into last year’s Tour de France with Wiggins and went on to win the overall for him.
At this year’s Giro, Sky already has the pink jersey, this time with Puccio, but the team said the plan remains the same — deliver Wiggins to the final overall victory.
“For sure our goal is race at Brad’s side from today until Brescia,” said Puccio.
Added Cataldo: “We don’t want to feel the pressure of this jersey. We all know that the crucial moments of this Giro are still to come.
“The objective was to do well and gain a few seconds on our rivals today. We wanted to stay compact and give him morale by letting him know that he had a strong team. We don’t want pressure.”
Meanwhile, Brailsford said, the jersey is good for the team’s spirit.
“You can’t plan when you win something or get a jersey, you’ve got to take what you get. So it’s a great for us, a great day for Puccio,” Brailsford said.
“To be honest, it’s about this moment in time. It’s more the mental side of it and the morale. It pulls the team together. It gives you great team spirit, great morale, and that is as important as a couple of seconds at this point in the race.”